To My Damien on his 3rd Birthday

Dear Damien,

Today you turn three years old! THREE! As you proudly ask every day of late, “I’m bigger now?”, you have been excited about the prospect of growing up and getting to do all the things you see your brother doing. There’s really very little that stops you now anyway, but you so want to go from being a “little boy,” as you say, to a “big boy.” I, on the other hand, have mixed feelings about you growing up. 

Last year, we saw the emergence of your love for music. This year, it’s blossomed into nearly your whole life. When you’re not drumming (which in all honesty is most of the day), you’re playing guitar (du-gar, to you). Your biggest wishes in life are about “one day I have a red electric guitar” and “one day, I get a biiiiiig drums.” We talk a lot when you’re asleep about when is the appropriate time to indulge you with a drum set. So far, not yet. You rock out with far too much enthusiasm (and volume) for us to go there. 

Damien, your enthusiasm for life is infectious, just like that cheesy grin of yours. You run up and hug those you love. You run when you could walk. You speed down the path on a two-wheeled scooter, fearless of falling. You brave new heights at the playground. You play your music with a whole-body abandon that makes us want to laugh from joy. You LOVE, Damien. And those around can’t help but love you back. 

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Your enthusiasm for life does make you, at times, quite a handful. You want all of me, all of the time; I’m your ‘MumMum,’ and you always want to share your love with me. You want to dominate – to have your turn, or your choice, or leave when you want. Your emotions burst out with your opinions, though it’s always short lived. In the end, you’re an optimist and will find another way to be happy. You may sometimes be a handful, clingy, cheeky, or a crazy monkey, but I’d never call you grumpy. It’s not your way.

You love your music. You love playing cars. You love driving outdoor cars and scooters. You love bike rides. You love the swing at the park. You love running and jumping and skipping (at least you think you’re skipping). You prefer to use your imagination than play with a specific toy. You love books and drawing. You love life, and always show it. How many kids say “Oooh, I love shopping!” That’s your outlook, right there, even if your enthusiasm makes shopping with you less-than-easy. 

You are growing up, my little Damien. And I’m so proud of seeing you change. I’m proud to see you take your steps into independence, forging relationships with friends your own age or challenging yourself to play like the big kids on the playground. I’m always excited to see your laughing little face waiting for me after preschool. Or to watch your mind and soul expand as you listen to live music. 

The light shines from you, my boy, and it shines on all of us around you. I can’t wait to see what adventures this year bring for you. Embrace the world and make it yours. I hope that joy continues to burst forth from you always, for it brings such a rare light to this world. 

Happy birthday to you, my Damien! 

All my love, 

Damien vs the Potty

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We began potty training Damien mid-way through November. He picked up on the pee part of potty training within a few days, but the other half was much more difficult than I expected. And it got worse for quite a while before it got better. Damien periodically dropped his nap and got sick during the process, making it so much more stressful as well.

Damien was a withholder. He became so afraid to go that he would simply refuse to go, for hours on end,until his body just wouldn’t let him hold it in any longer. This experience was very stressful for him, and for us, and tended to make him more scared, instead of less. At the time, I didn’t see how we were going to get out of it. I even considered putting him back in diapers, though it quickly became apparent that he wanted nothing to do with them anymore (and it was the wrong decision anyway!).

Thankfully, I wasn’t alone in the process. Following the advice of Dawnn Whittaker, of Cheekychops Consulting, we had laid a strong foundation in potty training and, when problems like this came up, I was able to ask for advice. And, following her advice, and giving it time, things did get better. 

While going through the crazy stressful time of a child withholding, I admit to Googling and asking around for advice, but mountains of opinions can’t help you make the right decision. If anything, they just make you more uncertain of the path to take. It is so nice to have someone you can bounce questions off of, and get honest and simple answers in return. I’ve been working with Dawnn for years, ever since Aiden was a baby, and was so happy to have the opportunity to try her Potty Training Services with Damien.

For example, during the process of potty training, I was inadvertently preferring the toilet to the potty for the more dirty business of the day (since less cleanup!), but this was probably a more scary prospect for Damien. Dawnn was able to show me how I was trying to teach him, in sleep perspectives, to sleep in a bed before learning to sleep in a crib. Just too much, too quickly. I had a lot of questions along the way, about how to deal with a child who seemed to pee more frequently just to get a reward, to the withholding, to when to drop diapers at night. Thankfully, the answers were always there and very easy to stick with. 

Ok, most of the time. I wasn’t supposed to take him out of the house as early as I did in the potty training process, but I was stir crazy and in my defence he adjusted quite quickly. Just call me a rule breaker!

So, how did the withholding resolve? First, by dealing with the resulting constipation (with pears, and prune juice and even some Lax-A-Day) as soon as it showed up. I know first-hand as a parent how many issues can come out of constipation. We are still dealing with those. And I didn’t need a repeat. Next, we focused on key phrases that Dawnn suggested if he had an accident, and focused on not putting too much pressure on him to go, even if he looked like he was going to go. Damien’s turning point seemed to be when we took the pressure of him to sit and instead focused on the word squat, which he is very proud to do. I hold him about an inch off the seat, but he retains complete muscle focus on what he’s trying to do and that makes all the difference. Squatting is a much more natural position, so who can blame him?

No more accidents. No more withholding. No more complaining. Potty training is complete! One day he’ll sit, but until then I’m completely happy with the outcome. 

Disclosure: I have worked with Cheekychops Consulting for several years, assisting in marketing. I received Dawnn’s potty training services in exchange for this post, though all opinions expressed are my own.

Damien Starts Preschool

Damien began preschool last Monday. I have had him on the wait list for the preschool associated with Aiden’s school for a year, and mid-December received the call that he had a place in January! I was nervous all Winter Break that he was going to struggle with it, as our potty training experience was stressful to begin with and he was struggling with separation anxiety. Thankfully, a lot of this resolved during the Break and his first two days of preschool went really well. 

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Damien expressed quite a lot of excitement about preschool, but he also admitted to being nervous (pause for a second as I express pride in my 2-year-old’s emotional awareness!). I stayed with him for about 40 minutes of his first day, to play puzzles and House and help him feel more at ease. After a successful trip to the bathroom, he was probably ready for me to leave, but another little girl was really struggling with her first day and it didn’t seem wise to leave during her freak-out. So, I waited. Day 2, he expressed a bit more hesitancy in staying (especially since I tried to leave soon after), but I requested they bring out their bin of music toys and thereafter he was fine. 

He comes out of preschool with a huge grin on his face and a look of pride that is so hard to describe. You can tell, though he expresses that he misses me, that he is so proud of his independence. 

They grow up so quickly!

Damien at 2.5: A Snapshot

Damien turned 2.5 almost a month ago and I wanted to record for posterity where he’s at right now in his life. I can’t believe he’s half way to being 3 years old, and yet for sure I can say he is most definitely a 2-year-old. Since the last time I checked in almost 5 months ago, Damien has learned to assert his will and his independence… unless he doesn’t want to, of course. He’s just as much a 2 year old as Aiden was at this age.

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Damien loves to negate things, even when he readily retracts it, and is as much prone to yelling or going limp in refusal or dropping down when he wants to get his way. He has strong opinions, my little one! But at the same time, he’s still very cuddly and loving and outgoing and social. This contrariness, of extreme clinginess to extreme independence, is very common at this age. 

This last month saw a lot of these traits come out, particularly exacerbated by a week-long bout of illness and potty training. He’s completely potty trained now, but we’ve had issues with withholding that we are still working on. It’s a process. 

Where Damien is now:

  • Weighs 28lbs
  • 36” tall
  • Has only 1 of his back molars (3 to go!)
  • Favourite foods include quesadillas, bagels with cream cheese, strawberries, yogurt raisins, yogurt drinks, smoothies of all kinds, sushi, miso soup
  • Loves puzzles. Can independently complete puzzles he knows well, up to 40 pieces, and can sit with you to help do puzzles up to 100 pieces.
  • Loves board games, particularly Candyland and the Discovery Beach Game
  • Still loves to make music. Preferred instruments are drums and guitar. Is obsessed with The Wiggles. We have about a dozen of their albums
  • Starting to branch out in tv interests, including shows such as Curious George and Blues Clues in with his Wiggles time
  • Loves to read longer stories, particularly those by Robert Munsch and anything Curious George
  • Almost dropped his nap, but then got sick and that threw things off. Wakes around 5:30am and struggles to fall asleep at night. 
  • Is potty trained (ok, mostly), including for naps and night
  • Can count to 20 and sing the alphabet
  • Can recognize some letters
  • Can use scissors
  • Can be destructive or run away at the blink of an eye. That defiance thing is in full force!
  • Can speak with fluency and very few “baby” words left. Still uses “too-key” for “excuse me” and “this a for?” for “what’s this,” and “Gooes Boos” for “Blues Clues.” Says all names properly now too (I miss him saying Aidne and Gaggy!)

The Dreaded Potty Training

Today I decided to start potty training Damien. He’s shown some signs of readiness for a couple of months… but not all of them. The thing is, I don’t think he’s the kid who is going to say “Hey, I’m having a pee!” while wearing his diaper. That’s just not like him. So, for us it was more about timing. When did we have approximately a week that wasn’t filled with a crazy number of activities and things? Well, that was this week. Well, from today onward anyway. 

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Staying at home was not easy for either of us. Damien was desperate to go somewhere. Anywhere. He played really well at home, but he’s not used to so many sedentary activities. He’s used to much more active play and a lot of walking for school pick-ups!! We took him to a cafe in the morning before we began potty training, but I won’t do that tomorrow. It will be diaper free from the moment he’s awake. I do hope, however, to possibly get him into underwear in the afternoon to take a walk or something close by. 

The morning involved a lot of me cleaning the floor, but this afternoon saw greater success. He was initiating more trips to the potty and only had 1 accident. Let’s see what tomorrow brings!

I hate potty training.